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KTRK Mayoral forum

Anyone catch the KTRK Mayoral forum?

The four major candidates vying to be Houston’s next mayor took some of the first steps toward engaging each other directly in a live televised debate on KTRK Wednesday evening.

With just four weeks remaining in a contest that has been slow to pick up steam, City Councilman Peter Brown, City Controller Annise Parker, former City Attorney Gene Locke and Harris County Education Trustee Roy Morales made some of the most pronounced attempts in the campaign season to distinguish themselves from one another. On many issues, their policy ideas have been markedly similar, but a television viewer connecting with the race for the first time might not have known it.

Much of the conflict among the four revolved around fiscal issues as the city finds itself in one of the most dire financial straits in recent memory.

Locke, who spoke forcefully but did not look directly at the camera in the one-hour event, struck first by highlighting the discrepancies between Mayor Bill White’s characterization of a fiscal shortfall and that of Parker’s office.

“It’s unfortunate that the citizens don’t know what the real deal is,” he said, noting that Brown and Parker have been as “quiet as a church mouse” in their roles at City Hall.

Brown, who also did not make eye contact with the camera, responded that he has worked closely with White in his nearly four years on City Council.

Parker, who engaged with the medium and even offered up a few jokes, shot back directly.

“I can’t help the fact that my opponents are confused” about the budget, she said, noting that she had tried to avoid engaging with White over “whether the glass is half empty or half full” to instead deal more directly with the problem.

My interviews with Locke, Brown, and Parker will run next week. If you missed this you can still catch the airing of the forum at Discovery Green on Sunday. I’d love to know how many people tuned in or will tune in to these showings, and (say it with me now) I’d love to see some more polling data so we can get an idea whether or not they’ve helped engage voters or move any undecideds. If you watched, what was your impression?

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